The federal government is falling short on training the next generation of Canadians, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau told an audience in Local 793’s banquet hall in Oakville on June 20.

“I feel that this current government is going in the wrong direction in its training program,” he said. “The federal government has to make sure Canadians have the skills to do the jobs that are out there. We need to have a pan-Canadian conversation on that.”

Trudeau was at the Gary O’Neill Learning Centre adjacent to Local 793’s head office to meet union officers, staff and apprentices and learn more about the training campus. Inside, he spent time on virtual reality simulators. Outside, he tried his hand at the controls of a crawler crane, all under the careful supervision of an OETIO instructor, of course.

In the banquet hall, Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher introduced Trudeau to the audience and thanked him for visiting the training centre.

“I am very happy to have you here to meet with some of our apprentices and talk about what we need to do going forward.”

Gallagher noted that the union and its contractor partners have invested a lot of money in training and “it absolutely works.”

He told the audience that the Operating Engineers are committed to training and building the country.

“From our perspective, we are interested in partnerships, we are interested in building this province, we are interested in bringing people together and building a great nation.”

In his remarks to the audience, Trudeau criticized the federal government’s approach to training issues, noting that far too many young people today end up dropping out of programs because of financial difficulties or because they don’t have a clear path to employment.

He noted the labour force is more mobile now and the federal government should be in the business of making sure that Canadians have the skills necessary to do the jobs that are out there.

“That’s why we have to have a Canadian conversation about how we’re making sure that those people in the workforce now and those who are heading towards the workforce right out of high school are given the opportunity to contribute,” he told the audience.

Trudeau said the federal government must pay more attention to training young people because jobs of the future will require more skills.

“If we know that in the coming years seven out of 10 jobs that are created are going to require some form of post-secondary education, whether it be university, trade schools or skills diplomas, certification programs or apprenticeships, we need to make sure that the achievement of training and post-secondary education of all sorts happens.”

Trudeau said he’s extremely sensitive to the fact that education is an area of provincial authority, and he is not going to “bust in” to the province’s jurisdiction, but he noted it’s important that the federal government build partnerships and work with the provinces to ensure young people are trained.

After Trudeau’s speech, business manager Gallagher asked what the Liberal leader would do to change the channel and get on with business if he’s elected.

Trudeau replied that he’s spent six months talking to people across the country and that has given him a good handle on what they want.

He also said he’s disclosed his personal financial details “above and beyond” what’s required in an effort to earn the trust of Canadians.

The current government, meanwhile, said Trudeau, is more focused on wielding power than helping Canadians.

On another note, business manager Gallagher told Trudeau that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is “essentially a failed government policy” and that First Nations communities have young people who can be trained for jobs, but the government allows companies to bring in foreign workers.

“It’s not fair,” Gallagher said.

Trudeau agreed with the assessment, noting the TFWP “is a program that’s become so badly managed.”

Afterwards, Trudeau took questions from the media.

He said Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised to be transparent and competent but has failed on both counts.

“They bring down a veil of secrecy on everything they do,” he said. “Canadians deserve better than this current gang in office.”